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It's San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece is put on trial. Howl, the film, recounts this dark moment using three interwoven threads: the tumultuous life events that led a young Allen Ginsberg to find his true voice as an artist, society's reaction (the obscenity trial), and animation that echoes the poem's surreal style. All three coalesce in hybrid that dramatizes the birth of a counterculture. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
"Howl" for Carl Salomon. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night...
[continues reading but unheard, credits roll]
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Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl is brought to life with a mix of adult animation, court-room drama and the beliefs of a young hero of sorts. Ginsberg represented the new generation of the young, confused nonconformists and he wrote poetry that ignited the wrath of the older generation that rejected their freethinking ways. The great thing about "Howl" is that I didn't know any of that before the film, it was able to educate me about a remarkable young man and literary voice.
Howl was accused of being "obscene" and threatened to be banned. The film smartly used the Supreme Court definition of "obscenity", and the reading of the poem itself to help me come to an understanding of the charges laid against the poem. James Franco as Ginsberg helped me come to an understanding of what the man behind the poem was all about.
The animated sequences were abstract and detached me from the film but I'm sure to all the artists out there they represented the poem accurately. The revelations into the mind of Ginsberg were done subtly and wonderfully connected with the arguments in the trial. "Howl" is a well done film that should be enjoyed by everyone with an appreciation of poetry and of poetry in our history.
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